When it's three o'clock in the morning and everything is going wrong in your life, there's a certain kind of ad you might see on basic cable. Lawyers–usually guys–promise to battle the heartless, tight-wad insurance companies on your behalf. There's disaster footage and stiff readings off of cue cards. The ads look like they were made in a high school A.V. class.
Believe it or not, lawyer ads are actually tightly regulated. There was an era before ads like these were allowed–and a big bang after which they couldn’t be contained. And now, the legal world is in a subtle, possibly endless civil war over how attorneys should advertise their services (and whether they should advertise at all).
This story was produced by contributor Sean "The Hammer" Cole. Sean spoke with On the Media host (and former Advertising Age critic) Bob Garfield; Elizabeth Tarbert, who is on the ethics council for the Florida Bar; divorce attorney Steve Miler; Lucien Pera, an attorney who advises nationwide law firms on their ads; personal injury attorneys Matt Hardin and Lowell "The Hammer" Stanley.
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